Tag Archives: Jodi Picoult

Review: The Tenth Circle

circle-500Recap: Trixie Stone’s life and that of her parents turn upside down when she comes home from a party, telling them her boyfriend, Jason, just raped her. Trixie’s father, Daniel, reverts back to the days before he was married, bursting with anger, ready to rage. Trixie’s mother, Laura, is full of guilt, wondering if this ever would have happened had she not had a recent affair with one of the TA’s from the college-level literature course she teaches.

As if things couldn’t get any worse, Jason, an all-star hockey player and student, is found dead days later, after seemingly jumping from a bridge in town. But it soon turns into a murder case, and since the whole town knows about the alleged rape, they are quick to blame Trixie. The question of whether Trixie’s assault was actually rape is replaced by the question of who killed Jason? And unfortunately, the Stones don’t come across as being particularly reliable sources of information.

Analysis: Jodi Picoult is very Jodi Picoult with this novel, weaving the stories back and forth between the perspectives of Trixie, Daniel, Laura, Jason and the detective working the case. Interestingly, she also uses illustrations to show a different interpretation of what’s happening.

The novel is heavily influenced by the symbolism and story of Dante’s Inferno. It’s Laura’s favorite book to teach, and it just so happens to be what she’s teaching when her life starts to fall apart. Together, all the characters seems to be stirring around in their own form of Hell. Daniel is an comic strip writer and illustrator, so he uses his wife’s love of with Inferno to create a comic strip named The Tenth Circle. There are only nine circles of Hell, but Daniel’s personal Hell runs deeper, so he adds a layer. His comic strip winds up being semi-autobiographical and centers on a middle-aged man who must fight his way through ten circles of Hell to save his daughter. Those images are used throughout the book as a metaphorical story within the story.

I love the way Picoult intertwined all these other subplots with the comic strip. I also loved that The Tenth Circle (the novel, not the comic strip) takes place during the winter in cold settings, emphasizing a contrast with Hell.

The problem with the book is its ending. It’s fairly anti-climatic and predictable with one very obvious line foreshadowing the answer to the “whodunit” in the murder case. It also ends, more or less, with the climax and no resolution. During the middle section of the novel, I couldn’t put the book down. After all that build, the ending felt disappointing for a story otherwise so well told.

MVP: Daniel. He must face his past to save his future, and while the metaphors and symbolism are heavy and obvious, they work. He does what he must to save his family, and while he has a dark side, he keeps it in check.

Get The Tenth Circle in paperback now for $11.68.

Or get it on your Kindle for $10.99.

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Review: The Storyteller

Recap: Sage Singer is perfectly content with her sad, lonely life. Well, “perfectly content” may not have been the right phrase to use. That said, she’s comfortable, working overnights at a bakery, keeping distant from her sisters since their parents died, and sleeping with a man who has a wife and family. But everything changes with Sage meets Josef Weber. He’s not a new love interest. He’s a 90-year-old retiree who lives in her small Rhode Island town and lets Sage in on a secret. He tells her he’s a former Nazi and wants Sage, a Jewish girl, to kill him and end his guilty suffering.

In typical Jodi Picoult controversial-story-content fashion, Sage must decide what to do — whether to assist suicide this reformed Nazi or whether to let him continue his suffering until he eventually dies. As she struggles with the decision, she reaches out to the Department of Justice. Leo is the agent set on helping her uncover Josef’s secrets and prosecute him. In order to do that, she needs the help of a Holocaust survivor. Luckily, Sage’s grandmother, Minka, is such a woman. Minka shares her horrific story in the hopes that it will be enough to convict Josef for all his wrongdoings. But along with the detail-oriented investigation and research lies another issue — time. Will Sage, her grandmother and Leo be able to pull this all together before Josef dies of regular old age?

Analysis: Jodi Picoult does it again — choosing a controversial issue about which to write and finding a way to develop emotionally complex characters. She sticks to the same format as her other books, switching between narrators each chapter. I like that format. It works for her books because it allows the reader to better understand the different sides of each controversial topic. But in The Storyteller, things became muddled in the middle.

The grandmother’s section about her experience in the Holocaust was long and gruesome. It was powerful, and maybe that’s why she chose not to have another character break up the section. But It was so emotionally difficult for me to get through, it would have been nice to have had another characters’ thoughts interspersed there.

The novel was so great, the story so powerful, the pain so excruciating, and then there was the ending. The end was a bit of a shock, but not enough to leave me breathless. It was not as satisfying as it could have been. After all Picoult did to build those characters, all I could do at the end was shrug. And that was disappointing.

MVP: Sage is a mess at the start of the novel. But by the end, she gets it together in the most unlikely of ways. She proves her strength, finds her undiscovered confidence and voice, and she finally does something. Her growth was wonderful to follow.

Get The Storyteller in paperback for $8.51.

Or on your Kindle for $11.99.

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Review: Sing You Home

Recap: For Zoe Baxter, life is all about music and children. She’s a music therapist, who has wanted a baby with her husband, Max, for as long as she can remember. But the couple is plagued with infertility, and after in vitro fertilization, miscarriages and stillborn babies, Max decides he can’t take it anymore and divorces Zoe.

So begins Jodi Picoult’s most recent novel, which, as her novels do, revolves around controversial issues and family. Besides the infertility issues, the story follows Zoe and Max’s after the divorce. Zoe comes out of the closet and marries a woman. Max becomes a born-again Christian and moves in with his religious brother, Reid, and sister-in-law, Liddy.

The fact that Max and Zoe don’t warm to each other’s new lifestyles is no big deal. That is, until Zoe decides she wants to use the last few embryos she froze with Max’s sperm to have a child with her wife, Vanessa. Max has equal say, and as a newly religious man, he does not want to let Zoe raise their children in a homosexual home. What ensues is a trial that makes every character crazy, tired, and determined to get what they want.

Analysis: Jodi Picoult has a way of making interesting stories about families turn into dark, controversial tales that become legal issues. In this story, Picoult takes the debate of homosexual marriage and parenting head-on. She considers the legal and Biblical points of view. With Max, the reader is told that gay marriage is against the law of God, according to the Bible. According to Zoe, family is family, no matter how it’s composed.

She makes these points clear by sharing narrative duties among the characters — Zoe, Max, and Vanessa. It seems strange for Zoe to marry a woman after being married to a man for 9 years; it seems odd that Max — a recovering alcoholic — is born again. But as we read their stories through their eyes, it helps us understand why they’ve changed and how, no matter what happens, there’s still an underlying connection between Max and Zoe.

In Sing You Home, Picoult does an excellent job of taking us through this story of love, children, and the trial. The characters are described in depth, and the issues at hand take a number of turns throughout the story. Picoult also points out the hypocrisy and bureaucracy of the justice  system. The one aspect where the story falls short is in its subplots and the way they’re wrapped up in the end– particularly one about Zoe and one of the girls she counsels. Though the ending feels a bit rushed and predictable, it’s more than satisfying.

MVP: Zoe’s wife, Vanessa. Each character in this book is flawed, and Vanessa is no exception. But she’s the most liberal and understanding. She is madly in love with Zoe, but lets Zoe determine the speed of the relationship, and it’s Vanessa who pushes for Zoe’s dream baby. Vanessa shows how strong true love can be in a book that proves love sometimes can conquer all.
Get Sing You Home now for just $10.88, down from $16.
You can also get it on your Kindle for $9.99, down from $28.

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Jodi Picoult Loosens Up

Bestselling author Jodi Picoult is loosening up from her highly adult, controversial literature for something a little lighter: young adult fiction!

According to this article, the author — best known for My Sister’s Keeper, Nineteen Minutes, and Change of Heart — wrote the novel Between the Lines with her daughter, Sammy.

Picoult tends to tackle tough issues, like cancer, school shootings, and teen suicide. But according to her Facebook page, the new novel will be more light-hearted:

“Color me happy! My daughter Sammy and I JUST finished editing the young teen chapter book we co-wrote, BETWEEN THE LINES … it’s about a prince who wants to break free from his fairytale existence … and the girl who falls for him while she’s reading. It’s sweet and romantic and funny — and to celebrate, we’re going out for ribs!!”

So, here are a few things we have learned: 1) Picoult has a good relationship with her daughter, 2) she can write for teens (or so we expect), and 3) she loves ribs!

I’m a huge Jodi Picoult fan, and I think people who read her books quickly become fans as well. I would be interested in reading the new book and seeing how well it sells. I have to say though…it will be weird to read a Jodi Picoult book and laugh, rather than cry.

According to this article, publication for Between the Lines is set for June 2012.

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